Wave-making activists visit Richmond’s Making Waves Academy

Wave-making activists visit Richmond's Making Waves Academy
All photos courtesy of Making Waves Academy.

Noted California artist Rigo23, along with Robert King, the last surviving member of the Angola-3 and a longtime prison reform and justice system activist, visited Making Waves Academy in Richmond on Friday, April 22, to revisit art they helped create and inpsire and to speak with students.

Accompanying King was community and environmental activist Malik Rahim, known for fighting for social justice, particiularly after Hurricane Katrina. 

King was the inspiration behind a large-scale mosaic mural on the Making Waves Academy campus called Pebbles in the Water. The mural, created for the school by a group of local artists including Rigo23, is underpinned by King’s powerful quote, “You throw pebbles in a pond, you get ripples. If enough pebbles are thrown, you get a wave. One day, that wave can become a tsunami.” 

During his visit, Rigo 23 said about Making Waves Academy, which primarily serves low-income students of color, “I think it’s just remarkable that this campus has been built from scratch to serve the constituency that it serves. That’s such an honorable thing. I’m kind of beside myself with gratitude and pride, to be able to be a small part of what this campus is about.”

The event began with viewing of the mural and its companian. Afterward, Rigo23, King and Rahim participated in a Q&A session in an AP US Government Class. Contra Costa poet and Making Waves alum, Donté Clark, also attended and performed one of his poems in honor of the occasion. 

King recounted to students the experience of solitary confinement, sharing how members of The Angola-3 “were all convicted for crimes that [none] of us committed.” The Angola-3 gained fame for their incarceration in Louisiana’s Angola State Penitentiary, during which they experienced the longest period of solitary confinement in American prison history. Their case gained international attention and sparked widespread protests. In 2001, King’s conviction was overturned.

(Left to Right) Rigo23, Making Waves Academy Board President Alicia Malet Klein, Robert King, Making Waves Academy CEO Alton B. Nelson, Making Waves Education Foundation CEO Patrick O’Donnell, and Malik Rahim stand in front of mural Pebbles in the Water.

“They had me under investigation for a [prison] murder– I was not even in prison when it occurred,” King said. “I was under investigation for that murder for 29 years.”  

King also explained the programs and goals of the Black Panther Party, encouraging students to fight for justice for all people.

“When the Black Panther Party came along, they put everything in perspective for me,” he said. “Black Lives at that time did not matter for some people. This is a loop phenomenon. When Harriet Tubman said, ‘come on, let’s go to freedom’, when she did what she did, she was saying Black lives matter.”

Rahim, a founding member of the Louisiana Black Panther Party, said he made a lifetime commitment to social justice, and impressed upon students the importance of advocating for the environment.

“Right now, I truly believe that your generation can be the generation that’s going to either save life as we know it on this planet, or the generation that squandered it away,” Rahim said. “I’m 75 years old. I want you to think about how, how this planet will look when you’re 75.” 

Making Waves CEO Alton Nelson said his school was honored to have the special visitors, calling them “living embodiments of what it means to commit yourself to work that aims to put helping others first – taking the step to make the ripple that can create a wave.” 

For more information, visit the school’s website at www.makingwavesacademy.org.